"God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him in the midst of loss, not prosperity." --John Piper

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Romans 2:4

Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

When we presume, we make an assumption based upon our own thoughts, rather than taking in the sum of the evidence. For instance, we might presume that someone has good or bad intentions in an action, based on our previous experience with that person. Many times, if we do not have any previous experience with that person we might then base our presumptions on similar types of persons. This is called stereotyping, and while in some instances might be correct, it is unfair to judge someone by the acts of others.

In this verse, presumptions are being made about God. If I were God, I would not hold someone accountable for their mistakes, because I would be a kind and loving God. Or since God has shown me a kindness in this area, He will also show me kindness and grace in all areas.

I want to take a look at the word "forbearance." It carries the meaning of tolerance or self-restraint. So then God has shown us kindness and self-restraint and patience. If someone restrains themselves from doing something, can we expect that to continue no matter what? Even in turning the other cheek, do we believe that that is appropriate in every instance? When we restrain ourselves, we look past our desires so that we might help others for their ultimate good. I might restrain myself from telling someone what I really think in order not to hurt their feelings. But yet there are other times when it is appropriate to voice my feelings for their good. Or I might restrain myself in dealing with my children in some ways, but I will not restrain myself in dealing with them in every way.

God is kind, and He restrains Himself from punishing us when we deserve it. He does this because in His grace, He desires that we come to salvation in Christ where the price for that punishment has been paid. His purpose is not to condone or forget the offense, but rather that we repent and turn from that offense.

So don't make the presumption that God will continue to dismiss your sins, so you can just continue to live in them. That might be how we want it to work, but that is not how God works. God's kindness has a purpose.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Romans 1:16-17

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
  • For I am not ashamed of the gospel This might sound like a silly or obvious thing to say, but I wonder how well we realy understand what it means to not be ashamed of the Gospel. Because it is not the same thing as being ashamed that we go to church. In fact, it might just mean the opposite. Sometimes church is all about our works and righteousness and what we do. The Gospel is all about what God has already done. It is a state of humility rather than a state of pride. It is me saying that I want Jesus, not saying Jesus wants me. It is falling at God's feet and worshipping rather than worshipping and expecting him to take notice.
  • because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes This is just a continuation of the previous thought. To really get the Gospel we must understand that God brings salvation, he rescues us from the depths of sin and destruction. This gift is offered to all who will believe it.
  • first to the Jew, then to the Gentile I admit, I struggle with this. Does it mean that the Jews are His first choice, or is this simple stating the chronologically, salvation was first offered to the Jews, and then to the Gentiles? I like this understanding, because it shows that God is a God of providence and a God of order, and it makes it less about me and more about Him.
  • For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed It is not my righteousness, but Christ's righteousness that is imparted to me.
  • a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith So what does it mean that it is by faith? Another word for this is fidelity, so I immediately think of marriage and what it means to be "faithful." Again, I see it as a result of falling in love and making a pledge to another that no matter what, you will be true. In sickness and in health. In good times and in bad. My fidelity is not based on circumstance, but it is the foundation of the relationship.
Praise God for the Gospel, the good news. So now my life begins to revolve around this truth. This is the basis for how I respond in all circumstance. It is why I go the extra mile, turn the other cheek, why I carry my cross. It is because I will live by faith, I will maintain my fidelity no matter what.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Romans 1:5

Romans 1:5 "Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith."

I have decided that I will get a little more devotional in writing for a while. No particular pattern, but I will attempt to stay on a "Gospel" theme.
I decided to start with Paul, and just 5 verses into Romans and what a verse. So much packed into one verse.
  • Through Him I did not do it, it was done through Christ. He did what not even Moses (the law) and Samuel (the priesthood, man) could do, He stood before God and God took notice. (Jeremiah 15:1-2) I must forever recognize my dependence on Christ alone.
  • and for his name's sake I am not at the center of God's world, He is at the center of His world, and for that I am so thankful. Imagine putting the imperfect and making it the cause of all that God does. That would make his actions imperfect. But He is at the center of all that He does, and all He does is right. And when I put Him at the center of all that I do, then I am right. This is not legalism, putting obedience or law at the center, but putting Him at the center, worshipping Him, loving Him, responding to Him.
  • we have received grace We have been gifted by God to know Him and to love him. Another word for grace is favor. The same word the angels spoke to Mary when they told her she would be the mother of the Christ. As Christians, we are also highly favored by God, that He has revealed Himself to us through His Son. This is an honor that we do not deserve, but one which we must respond to. When we see that the favor of God rests upons us, should we not also respond as Mary did, "I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said." (Luke 2:38)
  • and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles With grace comes responsibility. When Mary saw the favor that God had given her, she also accepted the task He placed before her with a humble, obedient attitude. When Saul met the Lord on the road to Damascus, his life was forever changed by the recognition of God's grace and favor. God does not save us to a life of ease and comfort, He does not save us for our own sake, but does it for His sake. And the lives that we then must live should also be for His sake. (Isaiah 43:25) Perhaps this is the reason Jesus told His disciples the importance of counting the cost of discipleship. (Matthew 16:24) The thought of picking up a cross surely must have been vile and digusting to His audience. But what better way to get the message of humility and acceptance of a task across that to make it a task that is so burdensome one could not take it on without dependance on God?
  • to the obedience that comes from faith. Not just obedience, or not obedience for the sake of obedience, but the obedience from faith that God has placed his grace and favor upon us, and we respond out of reverence and awe rather than a sense of obligation and duty.
That is the message of the Gospel, that God's favor can once again rest on man, not because of what man has done to earn that favor, but because of Christ alone. He did it and we respond in faith. We respond to seeing His favor resting on us, we respond by accepting the call that He has laid out, a call to deny self, pick up our cross, and follow Christ.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Can you say that any louder?

At one time in my dark and dismal past, I was an over-the-road truck driver. For about 8 months I worked for a company that would send me just about anywhere. I hated staying at truck stops because of the stuff that sometimes goes on there, but did one some occasions, as some states don't have enough good places to stay, and some do not let you park in rest areas for long or on ramps. Some even frown on parking at delivery points for the night, if they are too close to residential areas.

So it was Sunday, and I was at a truck stop, can't recall where or what kind, but it was in hte south somewhere. They had signs up that there was a church service in the morning, so I made plans to attend, which I did. There were maybe about 4-5 drivers in the room when the "hosts" arrived, a family of about 5. They quickly got down to business, introducing themselves and we sang a song or two. Then came the sermon. It was given by the son, who seemed to be in his early teens. I don't recall the topic or a word that was said, but I do recall the volume. It was LOUD, from start to finish. Over-the-top, in-your-face loud, hell-fire and brimstone. I remember wanting to leave, but not being sure that was the right thing to do.

All I could wonder was, what were the other drivers thinking? Were they believers already, or was this a first church experience for one or more of them.

When it was over, the family left as quickly as they had come. I think the rest just sat there in shock for a few moments, and then left without saying a word.

As I look back at it today, it saddens me more now than it did then. How does it make you feel?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tough Questions 5

Found this here.

I think this is why people struggle with God. It is not God so much as it is those who say they are his children, we really are a terrible mirror. So my prayer is that they might be able to look past us, to see Jesus.

Tough Questions 4

Can you define an experiment to verify miracles?

I think this kinda defines the mentality of those who "look for signs." (Matthew 12:38-42)

I wonder if a sign were given, would they worship Him, or would they continue to argue? "Now that I know you are real, God, let's talk about starving children, the Middle East, racial discrimination, slavery, etc. I don't like the way you have arranged things here...

He is God. He is totally in charge. He is worthy of all praise. He is perfection. Why do we think we have better answers?

Proof or not, one day we will know, and on that day there will be no more questions. On that day he will answer it all in one moment when he reveals himself to us. On that day, every knee will bow in awe and fear. So I pray for those, who on that day will know, but it will be too late. I pray for those who demand a sign where none will be given.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tough Questions #3

Is empirical evidence the only reliable evidence?

First, what is empirical evidence?

Empirical evidence is that which is directly observable. If you were in a courtroom, it would be the highest level of evidence, such as footprints at the scene of the crime, or better yet, video at the scene of the crime.

Unfortunately, such evidence does not always exist. So in order for a jury to come to an informed decision, other types of evidence is given. To say that belief in God is unjustified because of a lack of empirical evidence is like saying a criminal should go free unless there is video evidence or other such proof positive.

In a courtroom, each juror is expected to determine guilt or innocence based on the "facts" presented. People on juries don't always agree. But I expect that in most cases, one side or the other is right. I am a bit put off when people say that evidence for God is "insufficient." Perhaps if one only considers empirical evidence, but not if one considers all evidence. I understand that not everyone might agree with each person's choice, but that does not mean that the evidence is insufficient.

Science is constantly changing its position based on changing evidence. So science must admit that even a decision based on empirical evidence cannot be completely trusted, as new, previously unknown facts become available. Yet science shudders when it is said that it takes things on faith.

I love science. I think we have gained a wealth of helpful knowledge from science. I just don't think that science is the only answer, or the only way to an answer.

By the way, has science ever figured out what makes a bumble bee fly? I was just wondering...

Monday, December 20, 2010

Tough Questions 2

Continuing the last post, here is another of the questions that were asked.

"Why did God create the universe 13.72 billion years ago and wait to tell some desert people in some insignificant planet to tell the story?"

You say that I have blind faith? Were you here 13.72 billion years ago to know that is when the earth was created? Or have you done all of the tests yourself so that you can trust the empirical data? Or do you just take the word of those who have said that it is so? Seems like 13.72 billion years ago is a pretty specific number. Are you sure it wasn't 15.82, or 254.9, or maybe just 2 billion? I think we choose what we want to have faith in.

Let me ask this, how long was it supposed to take? I really don't see God as being in a hurry since he had all of eternity to get the job done. What if the earth were created 10,000 years ago? Would that have made a difference? Not to a God to whom time has no meaning. Personally, I love the idea that he could have taken such a long time to lovingly craft a universe so complex and amazing. But I also believe that because of his immense power, he could have just as easily done it in 7 literal days, including taking the last day to just rest and admire it.

I think we want to put God in a corner, so that he is forced to explain himself to us. But that isn't going to happen. You see, if you look for the center of the universe, we are not in it. I believe that is intentional. The sun does not revolve around the earth, although I am told that at one time man believed that it did. That is what the evidence led him to believe.

Hebrews 2:6 "But there is a place where someone has testified: “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, a son of man that you care for him?"

Do we really think that God owes us anything, even an explanation? Sure it might be nice, but he owes us nothing. Whatever he gives and whoever he gives it to is up to him. Some people don't want to worship a God like that. That is their choice. A choice given by that God. Or by the universe. Take your pick.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Tough Questions

I was on a friend's blog, and happened upon a post written a while ago that I had not read, regarding comments made by an anonymous person in regard to a post on Stephen Hawking's Spontaneous Creation.

I enjoyed the banter that the post created, and thought I would tackle some of those issues for a few posts.

The first question asked is, "Who created God?"

In the tradition of Eastern teachers, let me respond with some questions of my own...

Which is easier to believe, that the universe has always been here, or that God has always been? Both take faith. If we say that the universe came into existence at some point, then we still have to answer the question, Where did it get its materials? Why can someone not accept that God did not have to be created, but can accept that the universe did not have to be created?

Many times when someone is debating such issues, they will say things like, "According to our current understanding of ..." So I will ask another question. How much understanding of the universe do we really have? 10%? I doubt it. Have you really considered the size of the universe? 1%? I still doubt it. We would probably like to think we know more than that, but how would we know? What if there are other substances on those planets, how would we know? Didn't we use to think that the universe was infinite, but know I hear people say that there are other universes out there. Have we just changed our definitions? We do like to shrink things to make us look bigger. Just ask God.

How does the finite understand the infinite? I believe the answer is that it can't. It can only understand within the limits of its own knowledge. And I am starting to guess that even with all of today's technological genius, that we haven't yet come close to even a 1% understanding the infinite, both God and the universe.

I will end with one last question. What do you want most out of life? I think if most people were honest, they would say "to know that this is not all there is."  If we knew, I think that would change things. And maybe that is exactly why we don't know. If there is a God, He gets to make the rules.

I know what my daughter wants for Christmas. It is a doll that used to belong to her grandma, my mom, who died before my daughter turned 1. She has begged, pleaded, and even took out her change purse and offered to buy the doll. I know that one day soon it will be hers. I look forward to the joy she finds when that gift is finally given to her. I think that the waiting maybe even will increase her joy when it is received. But for today, I get to make the rules. Not that I lord that over her, but I think there is prudence in waiting for the right time.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

There is a certain amount of humility in admitting that we don't know it all. I'm okay with that.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Gospel wimps

I love how Jesus interacts with people. He handles each person in a unique and loving, yet often firm and challenging way.

Take the woman at the well. Jesus engages her. She thought this was inappropriate, for Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. But Jesus was never one to worry about what people thought was appropriate. (I could talk for hours on that topic alone...why is it we try to talk people into becoming Christians by only highlighting the good parts? Nevermind...)

Then he baffles her by offering a water that is better than the water she has. He curiosity is piqued. She wants to know more.

Then he informs her. The water he speaks of is eternal. What an awesome picture. Imagine, never thirsting again. I want that!

Now he confronts her. If you want this, go get your husband. What is that you say? You have no husband? What about that guy you are sleeping with?

Then he informs her again. True worshippers must worship in spirit and truth.

What? No slide shows? No powerpoints? No invitiation to just give him her life? No altar call? No drama? Just confrontation and information? Just truth and authority? That would never work today...

I fear that we have become a generation of Gospel wimps, believing that we must "sell" Jesus to the masses, so we package him up in the prettiest paper with a nice shiny bow on top. Give your life to Jesus and all will be well, you will be on the track to paradise.

FINE PRINT: Giving your life to Jesus might require you to surrender all. Just shaking the pastors hand and getting baptized in no guarentee of salvation. God is the final judge in all matters eternal, and the decision of the judge is final. If you are not satisfied with his judgment, no refund of offerings will be given, and no compensation for time spent volunteering. The invitation is not intended to be a complete explanation of what salvation entails. For further instructions regarding all things regarding God and salvation, read the Bible. Batteries not included.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Kids believe the darndest things

I teach in an elementary school.

One thing that always amazes me is how kids think about God. Kids that I think have no church exposure or relationship at all know about God. And if you question their belief they are quick to show you their offense. No guilt, no second guessing. They believe.

John 3:36 "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but hte wrath of God remains on him."

Why did Jesus make the switch? At first he says we must believe. I am okay with that. I made a confession in front of the church, so I am in, right?

But then he says that "whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life." Why add obedience. I was okay at believe. Sure, I don't act like those school kids, sometimes I get a little embarrassed when it comes t omy faith. I don't always get offended or come to your defense. Maybe I even second guess sometimes.

Just how far do you want me to take this?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Come to the Happy Place!

I have been listening to some Francis Chan lately. For such a mild tone, he speaks powerful words.

One of the things that struck me most was the church as a "Happy Place." A place where we invite people in, make them feel comfortable, and tell them how much God will bless them if they give their life to him.

Or to put it bluntly, we lie.

It is not that God won't bless them, but it is the perception of HOW He will bless them that is missleading.

Jesus spent a lot of his ministry shooing people away. Saying things like, "If you want to follow me you have to pick up your cross" surely did not appeal to the masses. Or walking the extra mile, or turning the other cheek...

Why do we seem to preach from the same verses over and over to the neglect of the cost and the cross?

We offer an invitiation to the Happy Place, smile and extend a hand and tell them they are now "one of us." But what if I don't want to be one of them?

To quote Keith Green, "I want to, I need to, be more like Jesus." I don't want to go to the Happy Place, take me to the cross. The cross is where I can worship Him, where I can cry over His death and my sin. The cross is where I am broken in to pieces and healed by the Master. The cross is my redemption, and it is not a happy place.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Always look on the bright side of life...

I have had this song ringing in my head lately, the Monty Python tune, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.

I know that some might find the following video clip sacreligious. It is from an old movie, "Life of Brian." As I remember it, it is about a man named Brian whose life parallels Christ's, only he is just a mere human. The song comes into play as several people are hung on crosses, and one starts telling Brian that he should not be so down.

Is that not a parable of the church?

We live in the midst of a world that is literally going to hell, and we fool ourselves into thinking that God is interested in our comfort. Do we really believe that a few dollars in an offering plate (or any amount for that matter) and a few hours devoted to God is our ticket to heaven?

Perhaps that is what we look like to the rest of the world, a bunch of people on crosses telling others to look on the bright side, while we smile and whistle happy tunes.

Here's a look at the video if you are interested...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

How do you interpret this?

John 3:27 To this John replied, "A person can receive only what is given them from heaven."

John had been called to prepare the way for the Messiah. He had gained quite a following, and had ticked off quite a few as well. I imagine John as loving what he was called to do, a real outdoors kinda guy, full of fire and passion for God. Now things were changing. People were going over to listen to and follow Jesus. John understood this. He understood that this is why he came. He understood that God was in charge. Maybe most importantly, John knew he was not the Messiah.

The Scripture goes on to say that John was even full of joy.

What? How could he be? Didn't he fear the unemployment line? His flock was leaving him. What did his future hold? (I doubt he really understood the full impact of what his future held at this point.)

I believe John understood that God was in control. I think he understood that we get what God gives us, and therefore we live in the moment, and leave the future to God. He understood that it was Jesus who gets the glory.

I need to understand this.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

How not to start a new ministry

Don't randomly call people who don't already know what they want. (John 1:38)

Don't let people know about your past. (John 1:46)

Don't talk about the subject of alcohol. (John 2:9-11)

Don't mess with traditions that are in place. (John 2:15)

Don't tell it like it really is (John 2:24-25)

Don't do any of these things, unless you want to be like Jesus.

I wonder, if Jesus were starting a ministry today, would it look like our ministries? Would he put a coffee bar in a large building where he encouraged everyone to meet on Sunday? What would he talk about? Would he worry if people were offended? Would he judge his success by how many came?

I was just wondering.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Follow him

Jn 1:35-39

John the Baptist has baptized Jesus, and sees him walking by. John was with 2 of his disciples, and he nudges them and points to Jesus. "Behold, the Lamb of God."

What would you say if you were one of the disciples with John? We have no record if they said anything at all. Just that they heard and left him to follow Jesus. I wonder if this was John's intent, to show them who they should really be following. Had there been conversations? After all, John was sent to prepare the way. Was a part of that preparation getting these specific men ready to follow Jesus. Was this John's way of saying, "What are you waiting for, there He is!"

Jesus turns and sees them following and asks an interesting question, one that they don't answer, "What are you seeking?" I think it is a legitimate question, especially since He knew who He was, and at this point they really don't understand all of the implications of who He was.

I wonder what my answer would have been, had Jesus asked me that question on the day I began to follow Him. I wonder if, like the disciples, I would have not said anything. I don't know what I am seeking, Rabbi, but there is just something about you.

So they (the disciples) instead ask him where He is staying. Jesus replies, "Come and you will see."

They did not know what they were getting themselves into. They probably didn't even know what they were looking for. But they were willing to take the risk. They saw something that drew them in.

I wonder if it still shouldn't be that way today. Just Christians living like Jesus, drawing in followers by lives that reveal the glory of God. Not everyone is going to follow, Jesus didn't bat 100% either. But it didn't change who He was or how He approached others. As a matter of fact, He sometimes said the hard things that drove people away. I believe you might call that "pruning."

So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day. It must have been enough, for they continued to follow him even after that day.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

This is what I am talking about...

Hosea 8:14 "For Israel has forgotten his Maker and built palaces..."

Hosea 10:13 "You have plowed iniquity; you have reaped injustice; you have eaten the fruit of lies. Because you have trusted in your own way and in the multitude of your warriors."

Hosea 13:4 "But I am the LORD your God from the land of Egypt; you know no God by me, and besides me there is no savior."

Hosea 14:9 "...for the ways of the LORD are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them."

Something to be thankful for

Hosea 6:1,2
"Come, let us return to the LORD;
for he has torn us, that he may heal us;
he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.
After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will raise us up,
that we may live before him.Let us know;
let us press on to know the LORD;
his going out is sure as the dawn;
he will come to us as the showers,
as the spring rains that water the earth.

Thanks that we can be restored to the LORD.
Thanks that he will heal us.
Thanks that he will raise US up. More on this in a bit.
Thanks that we may live before him.
Thanks that we may know him.
Thanks for the rains and showers.

I love that it says that on the third day he will raise US up. My mind immediately goes to the cross, and how on the third day he rose Christ from the dead. But in doing so, His purpose was to raise us up as well. I don't need to get a big head about that, and think that I am more important that I am, but I should be extremely humbled and thankful for that.

Praise God.

And Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Monday, November 22, 2010

For crying out loud

I wasn't able to attend church service yesterday (probably a good thing), but I did have the opportunity to listen to the speaker's message. (I say speaker because preachers preach about Jesus, don't they?

He spoke of "Disciplining Your Child." He talked about 4 types of disciplining styles. He gave four benefits of discipline. He listed 4 ways to discipline. He gave an invitation at the end.

That's how people know they are in church.

Had I been there and had been wearing a robe, I am sure I would have torn it. Does tearing a polo shirt have the same impact?

Hosea 5:4 "Their deeds do not permit them to return to God. For the spirit of whoredom is within them, and they do not know the LORD."

What was their sin? It was making things other than God ultimate. Now I am sure that some do not like the use of the word whore. Talk to God, it was His illustration, not mine.

I am not really sure what needs to be said here, but I hope that God will guide me to say it when the time is right. Pray for me!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Tough words.

Hosea 4:6 "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your children."

In some regards, I don't think you can say this about the American church culture. We have more knowledge floating around out there than is comprehensible. I don't think that is what God is concerned about, the quantity of the knowledge. I think he is more concerned about the quality, is it really knowledge, or is it the latest psycho-babble wrapped in a Scripture text?

Because many have rejected the truth, the knowledge that comes from God, and have followed whatever tickles ears, you will stumble (see 4:5).

But that is not us, because our church is growing. Read on...

(Vs. 7) "The more they increased, the more they sinned against me; I will change their glory into shame."

So maybe it is not talking about church growth, but rather their own supposed intelletual growth. Yet I see a parallel.

The writers of the New Testament warn us to guard our doctrine. Not the doctrine of a particular denomination, but the teachings of Christ. Yet so much of what is taught in not centered in Christ, but rather wrapped in a layer or two of Christianity.

To quote Mark Driscoll, "...if we ever study anything and don't connect it to Jesus, we are bound to get into a lot of trouble."


Thursday, November 18, 2010

I am geting married!

Hosea 2:19-20 "And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD."

God is speaking those words, and He is speaking them to a whore. He is speaking them to Isreal. He is speaking them to me! Gomer was the wife Hosea took after God told him to "take a wife of whoredom." And she was a living parable of Israel. And I figured out a long time ago that Israel is just a living parable of me.

So those words are amazing. They are life-giving. They put the free in freedom.

I'll bet they would preach pretty good on a Sunday morning too.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

You want me to what???

The book of Hosea fascinates me. If you don't know, God tells the prophet Hosea to "take yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom". (1:2) Wow, that cannot be the message of the Lord, can it?

It can be, and it was.

So Hosea did it. I have to wonder what he was thinking? Was he glad in any way? Did he think this was a good thing? That he was in for a good time? That he was going to convert this woman? Was she a looker? Was he just like most men, thinking more with his manhood than his brain?

And a son was conceived. And then a daughter. His name was Jezreel, and her name was No Mercy. Then the next son was named Not My People. That kind of name can't do a lot for your self-esteem.

But in Chapter 1, it is verse 7 that strikes me the most.

"But I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the Lord their God. I will not save them by bow or by sword or by war or by horses or horsemen."

Sounds like God had a plan. A plan that would demonstrate who He is. A plan that could not be attributed to anything other than the greatness and the grace of God. A plan that is out of man's power, a plan that only God could do. Maybe like the plan that He also had in mind when He sent His Son.

Sounds like a good plan.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

...and tonight's secret ingredient is...

Galatians 6:14 "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world."

Have you ever seen that cooking show where the man unveils the secret ingredient? "...and tonights secret ingredient is...SUSHI!" Then the competitors must create a dish or meal around the secret ingredient? Imagine if one of the competitors went to work, creating a fantastic meal, but did not include any sushi. So when he stood before the judges at the end, what should he expect? Perhaps he might argue that he didn't really care for sushi. I doubt that would change their decision.

And when we stand in judgment, what will we say if we have ignored the cross. Do you really think God will accept something like, "But I really don't care for the cross. That whole Mel Gibson thing was so gross. But I got everything else right."

Without the cross, nothing else is right. Nothing.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Running a good race

Based on Galatians 5:7-12

The Galatians had started out on the right foot. They were "running a good race." The picture I see here is of a marathon runner who has kept a good pace, is running with a good strategy. One that is not too fast or too slow, but will give them a good chance of finishing and even winning the race.

But someone cut in on them. Maybe it was a supposedly slower runner who wasn't supposed to be so good. So they doubted their strategy. Maybe they needed to pick up the pace, do something different.

Doesn't that sound like the way that Satan works? Faith? How do you expect to get to heaven merely on faith? Look, see my works? See how God has blessed me? God wants more than just faith. Now if you will just send a $20 seed gift of faith, then God will surely bless you. If you will tithe and even throw in some extra, surely that will make an impression on God. If you will throw away that beer and wine, that is what God wants from you. If you will...

That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you.

Paraphrase: Jesus wouldn't ask you to do that.

Huh? Didn't Jesus say, "go the extra mile?" Didn't he say, "to marry a woman who was divorced is adultery?" Didn't he say to the rich young man, "Go and sell all you have, then come and follow me?"

Yes, he said all of those things and more. But always in the context of "and that still isn't enough." Jesus understood and taught that it is not the act that saves us, it is our heart, our faith. And real faith demands a response. No response is valid unless done out of faith.

If I am confident in my strategy, seeing a slower runner in front of me does not make me doubt myself.

That silly circumcision group, trying to bring the law back into that which only comes by grace! If I am required to do anything to obtain salvation, then why the cross?

Paul makes an interesting statement in verse 11. "If I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted?" In other words, if I give in and just preach what they want me to, then why all the hubub? If I preach a cross-less message, all will be well with these trouble-makers. And heck, that sells much better anyway. But I can't do that. Because a cross-less message is meaningless for salvation. It might make for a better community, but it is meaningless for salvation.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Its half-time!

Galatians 5:1 states, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."

Why is it that Christians are more often defined by what we don't do than by anything else? Don't smoke, don't chew, don't date the girls who do.

Paul doesn't seem to think too much of this idea either. Stand firm (in Christ, not in legalism), and do NOT let yourselves be burdened by a yoke of slavery.

He goes on to say that "if you let yourselves by circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all." Could that be stated any stronger???

It is not about circumcision, it is about depending on anything other than Christ. Remember Jesus' statement that we "cannot serve two masters?" (Matt 6:24) I don't think that this only refers to money! I do not think we can serve the law and Christ either. I think Paul agrees

To depend on the law, any law, any set of do's and don'ts, only alienates us from Christ. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. (Vs. 6)

So why do it? One reason comes to mind, fear. Fear that grace alone isn't really enough. Fear that God really will hold us accountable for our deeds. Fear that there really is a good/bad scale when we stand before God in judgment.

What is it that Isaiah says about our righteous acts? Calling them filthy rags? How does that play out on a balance scale? (Is. 64:6)

Or is it a fear of leadership as well? If we don't tell people to tithe, we might not have enough income. If we don't tell people to stay away from R rated movies (except ones about the death of Christ), they might go (and like them). Or perhaps it is just easier to preach works rather than the Gospel?

I am not advocating not doing good works. What I am saying is that any works not born out of faith and love are a wasted effort. And if any works born out of faith and love are meaningless, then wouldn't it make sense to spend more time on the why than on the how?

I wonder how many coaches spend their half-time talks going over the fundamentals? Don't they rather talk about the motivation to win? Isn't that how we get ordinary people to do extra-ordinary things?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The basics of the Gospel

I posted this a while back, and was watching it again. Man is it powerful. Hard to watch this and think about church tomorrow. I think of the girl he sat with, and it makes me think of sitting next to my brother who was addicted to heroine. At least Matt realized how awful the message was...it took me a while to do the same.

And if you watched the first, here is another....

Sometimes the truth hurts

Galatians 4:16 "Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?"

Paul had brought the Gospel to the Galatians, and they had received it with joy. They had received Paul with joy as well. If they could have, they would have torn out their own eyes and given them to Paul.

What happened?

Paul had left for a while, and humanness took over. Instead of clinging to the Gospel, the law crept back in. Their joy disappated as they forgot about that which is primary, and again focused on themselves and the law. And Paul doesn't hold back in letting them know the error of their way. So much so, that he fears it might make him their enemy.

But Paul does not let that fear hold him back. Because the truth is more important. It is almost as if he fears God more than men.

Verse 17 "Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may be zealous for them."

They wanted to turn it into a popularity contest. Paul knew all about being zealous, both for the right reasons and the wrong reasons.

If being zealous were all that mattered, Paul would have been saved as a Jew. But he wasn't. If fact, God delivered him from that state. Delivered him from knowing the law to knowing Christ. And Paul didn't want to go back at any cost, because he knew where he belonged. And he wanted the Galatians to know it too.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Found this over at the Mockingbird blog.

So I found myself wondering....

Is it ironic or is it fitting that the Capitol Building is seen in the background of this song? What do you think?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Found this quote on Jarod Wilson's blog (he was quoting Martin Luther). Read it several times and finally thought I needed to post it on my blog. Not because I want you to read it, but because when I look back at old posts, as I do from time to time, I want to see this again.
The heart of man finds it difficult to believe that so great a treasure as the Holy Ghost is gotten by the mere hearing of faith. The hearer likes to reason like this: Forgiveness of sins, deliverance from death, the gift of the Holy Ghost, everlasting life are grand things. If you want to obtain these priceless benefits, you must engage in correspondingly great efforts. And the devil says, "Amen."
Yeah, I need to be reminded of this from time to time.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Where did my joy go?

Galatians 4:15 "What has happened to your joy? I can testify that , if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me."

When Paul first gave the Gospel to the Galatians, they were overwhelmed with joy. They loved the Gospel and they loved Paul for sharing it with them. I find that awesome. They loved it so much they would have torn out their own eyes and given them to Paul.

"Here, Paul, you take these eyes. Yours do not seem to be functioning so well, and having my eyes might enable you to be a more effective minister of the Gospel. "


Then the law crept back in. Jews were the culprit in this case, but they don't have to be the only ones responsible for this kind of thought. Don't we still do it today whenever we fall back on the trap of focusing on ourselves and what we do. But isn't it ironic that when we focus on ourselves our joy fades!

Remember Moses? Whenever he returned from the mountain, he had to wear a veil to hide is face, which was glowing from being in the presence of God. But over time, his face returned to normal. Perhaps it was just the day to day dealing with it all that helped it go.

Maybe that is why, when I sit in church sometimes, instead of being filled with joy, I find myself squirming in my seat. I am hearing social gospel, or moral deism instead of The Gospel. The Good News.

So I sit here and wonder...where do I go from here? I was reading in Ezekiel, and came across this verse (2:5) And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them.

So it is not whether or not I am happy, or whether or not they might be offended if I speak a truth that they might not be comfortable with. It is not about me convicting them or failing to convict them. It is not about me or them at all, it is about GOD. I think in some ways I have been letting them rob me of my joy. I have been robbing myself of my joy. And I want it back.

The prophets were never guaranteed success. God told them to go, and they went. Okay, so sometimes they grumbled...

So I believe that I must find my joy only in Christ. And I must speak freely and honestly about what I believe the Gospel to be.

So I suppose I better get ready for the ride. Somehow, reading the book of Jonah seems appropriate right now...

Friday, November 5, 2010

I just can't get comfortable...

I was reading a bit in the back of my copy of "Crazy Love" by Francis Chan, and I read a bit about how he feels that lukewarm Christians will not make it into heaven, that God will spew them out of his mouth. He uses Revelation Chapter 3 to confirm this. (See verse 16).

So, let's see a show of hands, how many of the Christians that will (or won't) be in church this Sunday think they are lukewarm? Are you willing to bet your soul on it?

I went to the Crazy Love study at the church we have been attending. That lasted 2 weeks. That was the week that they were talking about why God created us, and of course the typical "for fellowship" answer came up. A few years ago I would have bought into this. This time, I just sat there wondering what to say, wondering if it was appropriate to upset the apple cart at this moment.

The church we have been attending is full of nice people. The preacher preaches nice sermons. They do nice things and encourage others to do nice things. It all feels so comfortable.

But I don't feel comfortable.

Sometimes I want to scream.

Is this what Jesus died for? So nice people could do comfortable things? So we could gather on Sunday to sing a few songs and listen to a couple of jokes or stories from the internet? So we could be challenged to volunteer in the community (not a bad thing, but not the primary thing), give, pray, do this or that, etc. These are not bad things, but are they what the church should be built upon?

I thought the church was to be built upon the ROCK, the confession that Jesus Christ is LORD. (Matt 16:16-18)

What about Matthew 7:21-23?

Is Jesus primary? Or have we made that which is secondary the primary thing we talk about, thereby making the primary (Jesus, the Gospel) a secondary issue?

Is anyone else uncomfortable, or is it just me?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

To know or to be known?

Galatians 4:9 "But now that you know God - or rather are known by God - how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles?"

Paul begins stating things one way, that we know God. But then he corrects himself, and states that we are known by God. So what is the difference?
  • Me knowing God puts the emphasis on me. Perhaps as if I found it myself. The Gospel is never about me, and Paul deeply understands this.
  • God knowing me is profoundly more humbling. It means nothing that I have met and spoke to ________ (insert famous person's name here). I may know them, but I doubt they know, let alone care about me. But suppose _________ (insert famous person's name here) goes out of his way to let others know that he has met me! That changes everything. Suddenly, I matter. Not because I have done anything, but it is because they know me. I had no idea this person was aware of me at all. I am humbled.
God knows me. Me, the speck on this rock floating in a vast universe He created. Amazing. Humbling. How can I help but respond in awe and respect? Anyone want an autograph? (Oops! I better not let this go to my head!)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Prisoner of the law

Galatians 3:23 says, "Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed."

Yes, I know that this is the same verse I started with last time. It's just that as I read it something completely different hit me. It was the phrase, "we were held prisoners by the law."

I don't like that idea, the idea of being a prisoner. I think of it as being held against my will. But wasn't it my will that got me into trouble in the first place? Do I have two wills?

I think this is what Paul refers to in Romans 7:19, where he says, "For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing." I am a prisoner of sin because of the law. For is I did not have the law, sin would not be sin. Sheesh!

So what does this possibly mean for me today? It means that I must be on my guard. It means that I must look to the things of faith and not of sight. It means that I must depend on God every moment of the day.

It also means that I have been set free. I am no longer a prisoner of the law if I live by faith.

I still feel like I am sometimes. But I am not.

Galatians 3:24-25 " So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law."

So praise God for the law. For without the law, I would not know sin, but without the law, I would also not know Christ. Had I not been a prisoner, I could not have been set free.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Galatians 3:23 says, "Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed."

I have lots of questions about this verse. Like, was there a time before faith? Was there a time when people were acting only in obedience, not acting in faith or at least not knowing that it was faith? And where does this place Abraham? Was he acting in faith or obedience? Seems like there had to be an element of faith when he went to sacrifice his son, through whom he expected the promise to be fulfilled. Was that the first inkling, the first revelation of faith that this verse speaks of, or is it speaking of a time under Christ, whereas now faith is revealed to us?

Whatever the case, it seems that faith rules supreme. Paul states in verse 26 that our sonship under God comes through faith in Jesus.

I think that there are some who still don't see the revelation of faith. They still pursue God through works. I thin that is one reason the book of Galatians was written. I think I too still struggle with trying to earn God's approval. Perhaps that is why the Bible speaks so much on rest.

Psalm 46:10  "Be still and know that I am God.

Maybe instead of slowing down, I need to stop for awhile.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Can you hear me now?

Isaiah 48:18   If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea.

Galatians 3:19  What, then, was the purpose of the law?

When I read the Bible sometimes I get bogged down in all of the stuff I am supposed to do. But the law was not put into place solely for the purpose of my obedience. It was put their to lead me to God. Isaiah tells me not just to obey, but to pay attention.

There is more to paying attention that just obedience. I need to look for God. Look for the reasons. Find out what God wants me to know, not just what he wants me to do.

That ain't always easy.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Peace, bro.

If God responds to my obedience, then I can impress Him. If He responds to my faith, then He will impress me!

Do I really want to worship a God that I can impress?

The law was given to show me my faults, of which there are many. Scripture tells me to "live by faith." But what does that mean? It means trusting God. It means allowing Him to set me free. I just read that sentence again. Me allowing God, somehow that does not sound right. How can I allow God? I don't think I can. So perhaps a better statement would be that I allow myself to experience freedom.

God wants me to be free, and has made it so that I can experience freedom. It is His gift to me, the gift of a loving father. But I fight that gift. I allow things to enlave me because I do not let go. I hold on to thoughts and emotions that are not good for me.

Galatians 3:12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, "The man who does these things will live by them."

We live by what we do, and we do according to what we live by. So, if we live by faith, if we trust God completely, then we can have peace because what we do is guided by Him. If we hold on to other things, then we do not live by faith, and what we do is based on something other than God's guidance. And if we are fighting God, we cannot have peace.

My wife reminded me of something I had said before about peace. Peace is not contentment, it is not the absence of conflict so that we just become a floormat for those who want to walk all over us. Peace is a powerful force. Just like the U.S. has powerful peacekeeping forces that are a deterent to conflict, God is our peace. He is our powerful force that when we are in His hand, takes away the conflict and gives us peace.

Ephesians 2:14

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

You stupid people!

Galatians 3:1 You foolish Galatians!

Paul is not trying to make friends here. In fact, he sounds a little ticked off. Angry. Our Sunday School teacher mentioned last week that anger is fueled by love. I think Paul's anger was fueled by love for God, Christ, and the gospel itself. He goes on to say...

Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.

Where they actually denying the crucifixion and resurrection? Or was it their legalism that has Paul saying this? I am not sure. Either way, it is still an offense to the cross. They had been granted the power of the Spirit! (Vs 2), but apparently this was not enough to keep them from going down this path.

I find that VERY interesting. So having the power of the Spirit is not enough to keep one on the straight and narrow? No wonder there are so many times that we are admonished to guard what we have been given. Oh that the power of the Spirit would protect us completely and always guard our direction! But the Galatians had begun with the Spirit, and then wandered off to attain their goal through human effort. (Vs 4)

Why? Why go back to the law? I can only think of one reason, comfort. Satan exploited this completely. How can you depend only on the blood of Christ? Surely God wants you to do more. Just believing cannot be enough. He still preaches that message today. And many still buy it.

Sometimes I think we find ourselves indespensible to God. It is as if withour our help, the job just cannot get done. Is that the God we serve? One who needs our help to get the job done? Remember John the Baptist, when the Pharisees came out, curious, self-righteous?

See those rocks? If God wanted more children for Abraham, he could get them from those rocks. (Paraphrase of John the Baptist from Matthew 3:9)

That is the God I serve, the one who does not need me but loves me. The one who is above all, and can do all.

Job 26:14 "And these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him! Who then can understand the thunder of his power?"

All of creation, and it is but the fringe of his works. That is a GOD worthy of my praise.

There is a lot of phony faith in the church today. And it is actually chasing people away. I hope that I am not a part of it.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

This might not make you feel good.

What does it mean to be a Christian? Many would say that it involves doing good things and being a good person, trying to please God, and maybe even going to church. I say that is a bunch of crap. And I think Paul would agree with me.

Galatians 2:16 says, "a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ."

While a Christian may and should do good things, there is a fundamental difference between trying to please God and being good, and falling on my face before God and totally depending on the grace, mercy and blood of Christ. If I rely on Him alone, then my response is because of what He has done, and not what I can or should do.

Proverbs 1:7  "Start with God - the first step in learning is bowing down to God; only fools thumb their noses at such wisdom and learning." (The Message)

Paul started with God, but we often start with ourselves. What can I do to make things right? Answer: Nothing! Are not all our righteous acts filthy rags before God? (Isaiah 64:6) Here, God, let me take this filthy rag and clean up this mess I've made. Oh, that looks worse now, doesn't it. Wait, I have plenty more filthy rags where that one came from...

Sounds silly doesn't it?

Christ fulfilled the law. On the cross he said, "It is finished," and not "The rest is up to you now."

I love verse 19 of Galatians 2, "For through the law I died to law so that I might live for God."

Can he make it any clearer? If we do not die to the law, and we do that only through Christ, we cannot live for God! Death first, then life. Carry our cross first, then we get to be his disciple. But that doesn't always preach so good, does it.

Remember the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. One thanked God that he was not a gentile sinner, one fell on his face and begged forgiveness. Who was justified before God? Someone please remind me.

2 Chronicles 7:14 "if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land."

PS A word to the religious right: turning from our wicked ways (legislating morality, over-turning Roe v Wade, picketing abortion clinics, etc.) is meaningless without humbling ourselves, praying, and seeking his face first. Sorry.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Just being Peter...

I remember the Peter of the Gospels. The one who jumped off the boat to walk on the water, and then realized what he had done and started to sink. The one who one moment confessed Jesus as Messiah and moments later tells Jesus He shouldn't have to die. The one who swore he would not deny Jesus, then does so 3 times. So now we are into Galatians. After the resurrection, after the day of Pentecost. A new and improved Peter. Well, maybe not completely.

Galatians 2:11 "When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong."

Seems Peter had slipped. He was separating himself from the gentiles "because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group." (Vs 12) Others then followed suit.

But not Paul. He saw that they were "not acting in line with the truth of the gospel." (Vs. 13, and I love that line).

Peter should have known everything Paul did. Yet he slipped. He was still human. I take comfort in that. Mostly because I find myself more of a Peter than a Paul. I have to believe that there is a place in heaven for Peter. In spite of his flaws and failures, he is within the grace of Christ. Duh! If we didn't have flaws and failures, there wouldn't be a need for grace. But sometimes I feel like I push the limits of that grace. Sometimes I don't act in line with the truth of the gospel. And for those times, I need his grace. I need more of Him. And that is a good thing.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Going to Jerusalem

At the beginning of Chapter 2, Paul is headed to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Titus to present the Gospel to those there after a time of 14 years. I find myself asking why? Why to Jerusalem, the center of the church at that time, Isn't this where the apostles were? Isn't this a dangerous place for Paul?

I can think of 2 reasons he might need to go:
  1. Some were complaining that Paul was not preaching the truth. This is a very real possibility, since many there were of Jewish background and probably had a hard time with what Paul was saying, who he was saying it to, and the success he was having. Verse 3 sheds a little light on this, as "not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised."
  2. Perhaps it was that "they" (those in Jerusalem, from the leaders to the everyday Christians) needed to hear it and be reminded of the Gospel message. Verse 2 states that Paul "went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles, so we should assume that God was ordaining that this should take place.

Perhaps it was a combination of both. This just convicts me all the more of the need to guard ourselves from becoming complacent about the Gospel. If we think we have it down, if we think we have the truth and are okay, I think we are in danger. The Scriptures constantly remind us to be on guard. Thinking we have  it right is not being on guard.

What are you hearing this morning in your church? Is it truth? Or is it just a bunch of moral goodness dripping from the fountain of a Christ-less well? Or maybe there is just enough God in it that we can pat ourselves on the back and walk out feeling good about everything.

It is not that we shouldn't leave church feeling good. It is just that we should leave it feeling good for the right reasons. I can't help but remember the day that my heroine addicted, agnostic brother agreed to go to church with me. After hearing what I thought was a stellar sermon that could have answered some of his questions and helped him deal with his problems, I asked him what he thought. His response haunts me to this day. He thought it was lame. What if he had come to your church this morning? Did the message preach to the choir? Were the Christians shouting "AMEN?" What would a non-Christian taken away from the experience? Would it be that this is a good bunch of people, or would it be that we serve an awesome God?

Should we ever have a Sunday that does not share in a powerful way, what an awesome God we serve?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Are we sold out?

Galatians 1:10 Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.

I contend that Paul was a most interesting choice by God to continue the spread of the Gospel after the book of Acts. He was a militant Jew, and here he is taking the Gospel to the Gentiles. Wouldn't he have been a better choice to take the Gospel to the Jews? Perhaps if you or I were writing this, but not for God. But then again, I don't think we would have chosen the harp playing, tiny shepherd boy David as King of Isreal over his brothers.

The Gospel is not always a popular message. Oh, sure, we like the idea of salvation. But becoming a living sacrifice? Counting everything else as dung compared to knowing Christ? (I like my home and car.) Being content in ALL circumstance? (I prefer to whine now and then.)

Paul was not a people pleaser, he was a Gospel preacher. Paul did not get the Gospel from someone else, he received it directly from Christ himself (Gal. 1:11). And I think for that, Paul was eternally grateful.

The change in Paul's life was evident. Going from persecuting the church to embracing it. Going from being a zealous Jew to preaching to the gentiles. I can imagine what his old friends must have been saying about him, when they weren't trying to kill him. So maybe Paul was the best man for the job. Who better to proclaim the message of salvation than someone who had nothing to gain from it and nothing to lose.

Are we sold out like Paul was? And by we, I mean the church and the individual. Is our message one that is so appealing that everyone would want some? Because if it is, then I question if it is really the Gospel. If we are sold out, it must be to Christ, and not to works or just the idea of salvation.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Well meaning people...

I have been reading through Galatians. Here are some thoughts.

Galatians is about the Gospel. That is because Paul was a Gospel preacher. To him, it was always connected to the Gospel first. The Galatians were also about the Gospel, but had gotten off track.

It's not that they were awful people, they had sincere hearts. Paul knew what it was to be sincere. He sincerely persecuted Christians before becoming one. But Paul also had experienced a radical change, and kept the Gospel central, something that even Peter struggled with.

Speaking of Peter, does anyone else find it interesting that after the book of Acts, the main character (outside of Jesus) in the New Testament seems to be Paul? Peter had been with Jesus, denied him but was reinstated, was involved in the conversion of 3,000+ on the day of Pentacost, was given the keys to the kingdom, and then in comes this former Jew, Christian hating convert. Would J.K. Rowling change the main character in the Harry Potter series in mid-stream? God did. I think there is a lesson there, but for another time.

Anyway, the Galatians started to go back to the old ways, relying on works rather than grace. Preaching a message of good works. Problem is, when we make that which is secondary primary, we also make that which is primary secondary. (That is for all the Math wizards out there.) In other words, when we encourage being a good person and doing good works instead of promoting Christ, are we really any different from the local Rotary Club?

Paul takes this pretty seriously. "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!" (Gal. 1:8)

I think our churches would do well to take note.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Thoughts on Job. Could these guys be right?

So we were in Sunday School class, discussing the first "friend's" response to Job. Everyone is dogging him and saying what a terrible thing it was to do and say. Huh?

Job in Chapter 3 had basically just said he wished he had never been born. I might be thinking suicidal here. They had just spent a week with him mourning and saying nothing. A lot of what his friend says actually seems like it is decent advice, although some things it would depend on how they were said or how they are interpreted.

So what if the problem isn't WHAT was said as much as it was HOW it was said.

This is Job, the Bill Gates of the time. Surely he hung with men of means. And all they have to do for him is talk. How about a helping hand. Payback for some of the things Job had done for them or for others like them. And all he gets is talk.

Look at Job's response to Eliphaz. "He who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the almighty." (6:14) "For you have now become nothing; you see my calamity and are afraid." (6:21) Perhaps they were afraid that if they helped Job, whom they thought God was judging, they would themselves become the victim of such judgment. And then there is "Teach me, and I will be silent; make me understand how I have gone astray. How forceful are upright words! But what does reproof from you reprove?" (6:24-25)

So maybe the problem Job has is that these guys are just blow-hards. Offering meaningless advice because they do not practice what they preach. Now that is a powerful lesson for us, isn't it?

Anyway, I could be way off base, but I would love to know what others think.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

God Doesn't Need Me

God doesn't need me. I have come to that realization a while ago, but was talking with someone tonight who has come to that place, and she doesn't like that idea.

I told her, you should take comfort in that thought!

But she was still feeling the pain of such an idea.

Yes, it is a tough realization at first. It first struck me on a ride home. I had just dropped my son off with his mother. I had lost my vocation, my family, and I was feeling sorry for myself. Hadn't I done some good things for God? Didn't He need me to continue? Why was this happening?

I suddenly realized that He didn't need me. I was devasted. I almost had to pull over, the feeling was so strong. But as I continued, I felt His arms around me. No, He didn't need me, but He wanted me.

Could I really served a God who needed me? Such a God would surely be small. But a God who doesn't need me, but who wants me, who loves me, that is a very big God. With a very big heart. That is a God I can serve, that is a God I can worship and love. And that is a thought I can find immense comfort in.